Organization Paints More Than 1,000 Portraits of Fallen Soldiers

Americans remember the number of fallen soldiers on Memorial Day, but one woman remembers their faces throughout the year.

Kaziah Hancock spends countless hours painting soldiers' portraits as a gift to their families.

Calling her paintings "just a simple act of kindness from one American to another," Hancock invests time and resources in priceless creations.

After she heard about the death of a soldier from her home state of Utah, in 2003, Hancock wanted to do something.

"I have got to find that family and offer to do a portrait as a gift," she said.

When the painting turned out to be a success, Hancock began painting more and more soldiers' portraits, giving them to grateful families.

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As the number of fallen soldiers increased, so did the requests for Hancock's portraits. So, Hancock began an organization -- Project Compassion -- that recruited other talented artists to volunteer.

Together, in the last five years, they have painted over 1,000 portraits of fallen soldiers.

Their mission is to paint every soldier who has died since the September 11, 2001, attacks.

The emotion involved in painting the portraits has not diminished, according to Hancock.

"It [was] the same five years ago as it is today," said Hancock. "It leaves a big, dang hole in your heart."

According to Project Compassion's Web site, next of kin request portraits, and must also lend the artist three photos of their soldier.

Hancock clips the photos of each soldier to her easel while she paints their image.

"It's such an emotional thing," said Hancock, "I hope that I have really nailed the image of their loved ones."

"It really was an awesome portrait," said Julie Hepner, who received a portrait of her son, Pfc. Thomas Wilson, 21, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2007.

Hancock got Wilson's smile just right, said his mother. "When he smiled, his whole body portrayed who he was, and how much he loved life."

"I sure hope that I am making a difference," said Hancock.

For Wilson's appreciative family, Hancock's portrait was made all the more poignant by the fact that he was artist, too. "He could sculpt, he could paint," said Hepner. "He was very talented in that respect."

Wilson's talent may be gone too soon, but he has left a legacy his mother hopes will inspire other Americans. "Thomas would want us to continue on, to love each other," said Hepner. "And the American people to ... support our troops [and] let these guys know how much we love and appreciate them."

Which Hancock will continue to do, showing her love and appreciation for soldiers, one portrait at a time.

Click here to visit Project Compassion's Web site.

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